“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His Name.”—Malachi 3:16
Neither Luther or Calvin held those shallow Pelagian views, now so common, of a gradual amelioration and Christianising of the world. Calvin writes, “It is a superstition to think that the world is improving in religion and morality. It is not improving but it is always going back.” Luther says, “I know that the world is becoming epicurean; that is to say, they will lose faith in God and immortality, and give themselves up to the pleasures of the things of this world, and then suddenly shall be heard the voice, ‘Behold, the Bridegroom cometh.'” These statements are Scriptural; we have no warrant to expect the conversion of the world, but in the words of James to the Church at Jerusalem, God visits the Gentiles in this dispensation “to take out of them a people for His name.”
In the professing Church the progress of apostasy, that “falling away” of which the Holy Ghost speaks by Paul in 2 Thess. 2:3, is apparent on all sides and fearful and deadly is its development, especially in our favoured land. The advance of Roman Catholicism is steady and, emboldened by her successes in the past century from 1829 onwards, Rome now seeks to tamper with the Royal Declaration and the Coronation Oath and so to advance to the control of the destinies of the British Empire. In the spread of Ritualism she is dissolving the Protestantism of vast numbers of our people. The prelate who burned Cranmer and Ridley is reported to have said that the doctrine of baptismal regeneration was lost if the Protestant doctrine of justification were allowed. It was a true saying, for they are doctrines that none can reconcile; they are as opposed as good and evil, and the sad lade of clear and faithful preaching of this “article of a standing or a falling Church” has hastened the decay of Prostestantism.
In another direction the shadows deepen through a well-nigh universal abandonment of belief in the plenary inspiration of God’s inerrant Word and the consequent rejection of fundamental truth. “In the last days, perilous times shall come, for men will have a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Tim. 3:1,5). In this period we live and it is no small mercy to discern “the signs of the times,” to distinguish between truth and error and to be separated from the God-dishonouring systems of the day.
In all this we see an indication of that coming darkness which Scripture shows is to be the immediate precursor of the long-hoped-for morning “without clouds.” By their very scoffings and temporary triumphs, the enemies of Truth are but fulfilling the predictions of the Word of God and affording another proof of its prescience and truthfulness. The Scripture has abundantly spoken of the infidelity that is to prevail in the latter days; it has delineated its course, it has declared its final doom; this foe has ever been accustomed to attack the New Testament through the Old. The consciences of men, unless altogether hardened, cannot but recognise that there is in the New Testament something superhuman and heavenly and blessed in the character and ways and teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ; they know that never man spoke as He. Infidels, therefore, for the most part deem it unwise to commence their assault on Truth by directly assailing the New Testament and the personal teaching of the Lord. The books of Moses are first attacked and men pretend that the truthfulness of the Pentateuch may be impugned without the authority of the Lord Jesus being thereby affected; but is it possible for any man of ordinary reflectiveness to take the New Testament in his hand and to say that it does not, over and over again, affirm the Divine authority of Moses? Our blessed Lord declares “the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35); and under that term, “The Scripture,” everyone knows that the writings of Moses were emphatically included. On almost the last recorded occasion of intercourse with His disciples, it is said, that “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” In the Epistles, too, the words of Moses are quoted as being the testimony of the Holy Ghost; and on the Holy Mount, Moses was seen glorified by the side of his glorified Lord. Could any greater attestation to the mission of Moses be given?
“Moses,” says the Scripture, “was faithful in all his house.” What, then, must we say of those who, know- ing all this, pretend to do homage to the Lord, whilst they reject the servant whom He avowedly and solemnly accredited? Shall we say that a delusion has fallen upon the minds of such, or do they consciously deceive? What vast numbers in the professing Church are carried away by this false teaching which would convert history into fable and its realities into fiction. The doctrines rest, for the evidence of their truth, upon the fads recorded in Scripture; hence the foundation is ever being assailed. Let us hold fast the verbal inspiration of the Word; to do so will mean that ridicule will be heaped upon us, and when this is not the case the pitying smile and hints of not being abreast of the thought of the day may be trying, but we would patiently wait; God will vindicate His own Book and blessed are they who have the inward witness that it is Divine. “The words of the Lord are pure words ; as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times” (Psalm 12:6).
Away, then, with that questionable form of liberality which makes most free with what belongs to God! We add to the Scriptures or take away from them under the peril of God’s curse. Away, too, with that sentimentality which can find no better object for its sympathy than the blasphemer and the bantering sceptic. The truly uncharitable is he who beguiles unsteady feet to the edge of the precipice and there forsakes them; whose destructive method leaves the young without chart and compass; poisons their minds with doubts and entangles them in the dreary, stifling paths of speculation. With the facts of science we have no dispute, but any theory deduced from those facts which is contrary to God’s Word we can confidently condemn as error.
To the young we say, suffer not yourselves to be cheated of your birthright, the Bible, either by the fictions of unstable men, or by the exploded heresies of a bygone age, revived and recommended by living unbelievers. Wherever there is a rejection of the written Word as fully inspired there is also error as to the Incarnate Word; hence the battle now being waged against the Person of our blessed Lord. Let the words of the Apostle John be our directory—”He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ; he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God-speed: for he that biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 9-11).
A prominent characteristic of our day is the indifference with which the progress of evil around us is regarded by many who seem to fear God and reverence His Word. Never was there a time when resolute action against error was more needed, and yet in some quarters aggressiveness is condemned and a system of untruthful compromise and timorous conciliation sanctioned. It has been well said of those who are parted by fundamental differences that “compliments always tend to compromises.” Loyalty to Christ and love to the brethren should make us faithful in witness and in protest. When more than eighty years ago sacerdotalism and idolatry stealthily re-entered our land, few recognized the greatness of the danger; most looked on with self-satisfied complacency; then followed Rationalism, and its beginnings were for the most part unheeded; and now we have the revival of the long-disused practices of necromancy. Spiritualism, as this fearful system is now called, is spreading with extraordinary rapidity and is receiving encouragement from modern men of science; but how little notice is taken of it! Closely allied to it are other popular and antichristian delusions.
Rejecting the Bible, men turn to necromancy and sorcery for counsel and aid. We have the startling picture at the close of Isaiah 8. To seek to the powers of darkness in unholy levity of heart or under the pretence of wishing for conviction of the possibility or otherwise of the claims made, is to walk on the downward road. Satan assumes the garb of an angel of light and his deceptions in this disguise are deadly. He cannot raise the dead or separate the soul of a living person from the body. The apparitions are the result of personation. Evil spirits can personate the dead, but they have no power to bring back their spirits to earth. That power belongs to God alone. Notwithstanding all this there has been no period in which there has been so great a tendency to ignore the power of Satan, and even to question the fact of his existence. These systems should not be tampered with, but should be met with firm and uncompromising antagonism by all who fear God and reverence His Word.
The times are also ominous in relation to the secularization of the Lord’s Day, which is fast becoming, in a pleasure-loving age, a period devoted to amusements, all who seek them not only forgetting God but displaying a callous selfishness to the strain put upon tens of thousands in ministering to their enjoyment. The observance or the non-observance of the Sabbath has in every age and place been a spiritual thermometer, measuring the degrees of the warmth or coldness of the professed worshippers of God.
Whilst we rejoice that “the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are His. And let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity,” all who have the fear of God in their hearts view with deep concern the condition into which not a few Churches are lapsing which were once flourishing and where the discriminating truths of the Gospel were fully preached. Even where there has been no manifest departure from the faith, alas, how little power and true prosperity there are! Surely all whose consciences are tender, whose minds are exercised and in whose hearts is Divine grace, should seek opportunities for communing upon the things of God, as the Lord’s scattered people have always done, and unitedly as well as individually by confession and prayer ask for a true revival, so that the disciples, as in early days, “walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost,’ may be “multiplied.” Our eyes are up unto Him to Whom “all power” is given “in heaven and in earth.”
‘Thy pierced hands guide the mysterious wheels;
Thy thorn-crowned brow now wears the crown of power.
Let my soul calm itself, O Christ, in Thee.”
The servants of God must not only be for the truth; they must also be against error and evil and that manifestly and always. For this grace can strengthen. The spirit of compromise is abroad and that has always been condemned by God; vacillation and weakness of statement are to be deplored, and the adoption of carnal and worldly expedients in methods and services hastens the decay. Solo-singing and man-made revivals, under whatever name they may be disguised, create an appetite which grows by what it feeds on. Nothing in religion will stand but that which is wrought in the heart by God the Holy Ghost; all else is “wood, hay and stubble.” We need solemnly and clearly to insist upon this fact and to set forth the doctrines witnessed to by those named in this book, and which are the basal truths of eternal salvation.
Definiteness of speech is needful. In Nehemiah 13:23,24 we read of the degenerate Jews that “their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod and could not speak in the Jews’ language, but according to the speech of each people.” So it is to-day; there is much of worldly motive and policy and universal charity, embodied with some portion of Bible truth, and the clear, bold and distinct phraseology of Scripture is not heard as it should be. “Preach the Word,” but not in ambiguous language which may be explained to suit both sides, but which satisfies neither. The noble lines of Cowper present his ideal of the minister of Christ:—
“I venerate the man whose heart is warm,
Whose hands are pure, whose doctrines and whose life,
Coincident, exhibit lucid proof
That he is honest in the sacred cause.”
Have we not come to the seventh—the Laodicean— age of the professing Church? Lukewarm! nothing decided; neither hot nor cold; much religiousness but very little religion; much sentiment, but very little of life to correspond; a joining of the ball-room to the communion-table, and of the theatre to the worship of God. Such splendid churches and influential and intelligent congregations and cultured preachers! Such admirable music! What more can be wanted? “I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing and knowest not that thou art wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked!”
May we be found “faithful unto death,” numbered with those who speak to one another of Him they love and Who hearkens, hears and declares that when He makes up His special treasure they shall be manifested as His—members of “the remnant,” like those in Ezekiel 9:3,4—”And He called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer’s inkhorn by his side; and the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.” A few sentences from Mrs. Hoblyn trace the decadence to its root. “The great secret of the false divinity afloat is experimental ignorance of the truth of man’s total depravity. What do the religious public of our day know of condemnation for sin, of the fear of hell, of being cursed by the law? No, the religion of the present day is described by the seed sown in stony ground, ‘who hear the Word, and anon with joy receiveth it, yet hath he not root in himself.’ A foundation must be laid in a sense of sin more or less, for misery felt precedes mercy found, and those who never knew misery because of sin never knew the sweets of mercy and the blessedness of royal pardon. True religion is based upon right doctrine and the two fundamental truths that run through Scripture and are manifested throughout time, are man’s depravity and God’s sovereignty. Every act of sin proclaims the former, and every true conversion displays the latter, and both confirm the testimony of God in His Word, whether men see it or not.”
The more profession abounds in the world, the greater the necessity for a searching and separating ministry. It is the great discriminating doctrine of Christ in the heart the hope of glory, as opposed to the dead profession of the day, which raises us higher than intellectuality and effectually draws the line of spiritual distinction between a true and false profession. Hence it behoves all God-sent ministers to see that their teaching does not fall short of this great touchstone,
“I want no work within, says one,
‘Tis all in Christ, my Head;
Thus, careless, he goes blindly on,
And trusts a faith that’s dead.”
“The Word of God which liveth and abideth for ever;” the Spirit which “saith unto the Churches;” the voice of “many witnesses” alike say, “Hold that fast which thou hast that no man take thy crown,” and our blessed Redeemer, the Head of the one body, our Prophet, Priest and King, speaking from heaven, bids His people “Hold fast till I come.”
“Yea, amen, let all adore Thee,
High on Thine eternal throne!
Saviour, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for Thine Own;
O come quickly!
Hallelujah! Come, Lord, come!
John E. Hazelton (1924) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He was the son of John Hazelton (1822-1888). He was appointed the Pastor of Streatley Hall, London. In the December 1924 Issue, the Gospel Magazine wrote of him:
“For a period of fifteen years he faithfully ministered the Word of life to the Lord's people who met in Streatley Hall, London, and these are a selection of the sermons he preached there, lovingly collected together, and printed in book form. By way of introduction there is also printed A Declaration of Faith by Mr. Hazelton. This was found amongst his papers. It has never before been published. It is full of valuable teaching of such subjects as "The Peril and Needs of Our Churches," "The Holy Scriptures," "The Everlasting Covenant," "The Church," and "The Doctrine of Grace.” Mr. Hazelton was an able preacher of the everlasting Gospel, and he loved to exalt Christ and to abase the sinner. These sermons are full of rich Gospel teaching. They tell of a full and an eternal salvation, arranged and planned in the great Covenant of grace before the foundations of the world were laid. They tell of the electing love of God the Father, the redeeming work of God the Son on behalf of His Church and people, and of the regenerating and sanctifying work of God the Holy Ghost. They tell of the blood and righteousness of the Divine Surety of the everlasting Covenant. They are marked by fulness of Gospel truth and by tender and loving words to seeking and penitent sinners. They display a considerable knowledge and much care in preparation. They are the words of a true man of God who in dependence on the aid of the Divine Spirit earnestly proclaimed the Gospel of Divine grace in the prayerful hope that God the Holy Ghost would use the message as the means of regenerating the sinful objects of His eternal mercy. Space will not allow us to quote from these pages, but we strongly advise our readers at once to get the book and make it point of reading one of the sermons every week. Mr. Hazelton was called home on May 8th last. His last sermons were preached on April 6th and 13th, and they form the concluding sermons of this volume. A beautiful portrait of the beloved author forms the frontispiece. By these sermons, and by his valuable Declaration of Faith, he being dead, yet speaketh.”